Posted on Aug. 24, 2007
The advent of Web 2.0 technologies has made the Internet an even more valuable tool for businesses. With the increased interactivity of Web 2.0 applications, the web now acts as a broadcast vehicle for your brand and has become a valuable channel for creating and managing customer relationships. New Web 2.0 technologies like blogs, wikis, social networks, podcasts, RSS feeds, and web APIs have transformed Internet marketing and usage.
Still, the Web 2.0 phenomenon is not as simple as it may seem. So what exactly is Web 2.0 and why is it taking cyberspace by storm? There is no single answer because Web 2.0 means different things to different people. For some, it means the transition of websites from islands of information awash in a virtual sea to valuable sources of connected content. For others, Web 2.0 is the evolution of websites into computing platforms that serve up functional web applications to end users.
But for most, Web 2.0 remains a social phenomenon that’s transforming the domain of cyberspace. Users are now generating web content on their own terms and distributing it through multiple channels. Web content is being organized and categorized more every day, and deep linking is networking this content. The freedom to create, use, and share content is global, and virtual communication is open and subject to no authority.
Web 2.0 has forced users all over the world to rethink the way they perceive the Internet. Web 2.0 asks questions and demands responses, especially of businesses. The development of Web 2.0 technologies has made the Internet a priceless tool to broadcast branded messages to target audiences while creating and managing customer relationships. In fact, these technologies have led many in the industry to view “the market as a conversation.”
So how are we as Internet marketers to utilize Web 2.0 technologies in our campaigns, whether online or off? Much like the rest of the online space, there is no simple answer to this question either. Of course, every campaign will have a different answer depending on a variety of marketing principles.
Still, remember that within the domain of Web 2.0, no single factor is more critical in planning and executing an online marketing initiative than taking a user-centric approach. The user is the inherent focus of Web 2.0, so the best thing you can do is start thinking more about your users. Then, act upon the information you’ll discover, implementing what you know works best for visitors to your site.
We all know the technology that drives the web and enables online marketing is constantly evolving; just look at how Web 2.0 has changed everything we thought the Internet was or could be. Still, one principle that’s central to Web 2.0 and will continue to be so in the future is user-centric web design.
This focus on the needs of users brings us to the forefront of what many in the industry have dubbed “Marketing 2.0,” essentially the natural development of Web 2.0 as it applies to the transformation of marketing on the Internet. Today, consumers are researching and buying products online, and the speed of the internet allows them to make split-second decisions based upon web content, not on key messages or support points as is the case in traditional advertising.
Marketing 2.0 is based upon real content that’s utilized to encourage conversation and purchase decisions. Marketing 2.0 allows consumers to form their own conclusions based upon the information present. Thus, content becomes the most important aspect of Marketing 2.0. Connect through content.
Examples of this Marketing 2.0 emphasis on content and user-centricism abound. Web 2.0 technologies have largely replaced traditional online marketing channels. Blog posts evolved from press releases, just as email has from direct mail. Users can now “pull” content of their choosing online, where in the past advertising messages and related content were “pushed” upon the user whether they were interested or not. Webinars and podcasts have made traditional seminars accessible to all, and user generated content has taken precedence over that generated by businesses. Social networking sites allow users with like interest to connect and share relevant content with each other, giving rise to Marketing 2.0 strategies like social media marketing.
Clearly the advent of Web 2.0 and consequently, Marketing 2.0, presents several questions and implications for the process in which marketing is defined and created in an online environment. As marketers, we must ask ourselves how these changes affect our process and online strategy. How can we engage customers through this channel, and how can we brand our products when we can’t control the content consumers use to make purchasing decisions?
In order for marketers to take advantage of Web 2.0 technologies, we need to focus on CONTENT. Through content we engage the market, and create opportunities to build trusting, valued relationships with customers while maintaining a branded message. Remember that your content must be aligned online and offline to maintain a similar user experience, look, and feel. Many companies have incorporated content management systems into their web presence to allow for instantaneous content generation and modification.
There is no debate that Web 2.0 has brought with it a fundamental shift in user expectations. Traditional marketing messages don’t matter anymore. Marketing 2.0 is more about encouraging purchase decisions through content than forcing them through traditional media.
The verdict is in: Every business with an online presence needs to evolve in order to embrace and utilize Web 2.0 technologies or risk being left in the digital dust.